Starting the final third of the countdown ...
If Charlie Weis could win 10 games with Tyrone Willingham's players, why not Steve Sarkisian?
OK, that might be a stretch. So, too, is imagining the Huskies charging to the top of the Pac-10 after six straight losing seasons.
Yes, Washington has Jake Locker at quarterback. And the Huskies certainly have a lot back from a team that upended Southern California and hammered California at home.
Some emphasis should be added to "at home."
Since 2003, the Huskies are 5-26 in Pac-10 road games, including 10 straight setbacks. Keith Gilbertson was the coach when U-Dub last beat a conference team headed for a winning season on the road:
2003 Oregon State: 8-5
2005 Arizona: 3-8
2006 Arizona: 6-6
2006 Washington State: 6-6
2007 Stanford: 4-8
Now comes the fun part: Washington draws Oregon, Southern California, Arizona and California on the road (along with Rotten Apple Cup rival Washington State).
The Huskies should finally return to a bowl game for the first time since 2002. But a rerun of Notre Dame '06 --- tons of wins, great quarterback, BCS bowl berth, team composed mostly of guys Willingham brought in --- just doesn't seem likely despite Washington apparently being something of a trendy pick.39. BRIGHAM YOUNG
A rundown of the programs with the most consecutive 10-win seasons:
6: Virginia Tech
5: Ohio State
4: Boise State
4: Brigham Young
2: Penn State
2: Texas Christian
Bet you didn't realize the Cougars were so far up this list. It has a little something to do with the five straight Las Vegas Bowl invites Brigham Young has rolled up in that stretch. Every other team on the list has played in a BCS game in the last two years.
It'll be a struggle, though, to extend the streak to five seasons.
Brigham Young will replace its top passer, rusher and receiver. It plays Washington and Florida State in the first two weeks, and draws Mountain West favorites Texas Christian and Utah on the road.
Maybe the Cougars surpass this set of expectations, but getting to 10-3 this time around will be awfully difficult.38. MICHIGAN STATE
The Spartans are sort of the Big Ten's equivalent of Connecticut, only with a lot more tradition, a much bigger stadium and quite an impressive recent history of quarterbacks.
They also can't do a whole lot against ranked teams.
Michigan State is 1-9 against top-25 foes in Mark Dantonio's three seasons, and a healthy 21-8 against everyone else. The lone win came last year against Michigan, a defeat that precipitated a 1-7 tailspin for the Wolverines.
Basically, Dantonio's done a good job. He's reached three bowl games, defeated Michigan and Notre Dame twice each and hasn't slapped his head during a postgame press conference. That's improvement for Sparty.
But has he done a great job? Probably not. This year represents a chance to get things headed in the right direction, and the fact Ohio State isn't on the schedule (again) should help. Michigan State doesn't cross the state line until Oct. 23, so there's an opportunity to get off to a good start and crack the top 25 in the season's early stages.
Could this be the golden age of Navy football?
Let's line the last seven years up against the only realistic candidate that could match it --- the run from 1954 to 1963:
|vs. Notre Dame
|vs. Air Force
It all depends on what you're looking for, of course. And for many Navy fans, that 7-0 record against Army will trump a lot of things.
Realistically, it's an unfair comparison. The sport was different a half-century ago. Back then, Navy played in the Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls --- all in a seven-year span, and the professional game hadn't exploded to the point of making the service academies (and their military commitments) less desirable options to the best players.
Nonetheless, what Navy has done for the better part of the last decade is remarkable. With much of the offense --- including quarterback Ricky Dobbs and his 27 rushing touchdowns --- back and a manageable schedule that includes just four true road games, the Midshipmen are well-position for another strong year.
Will it be a top-25 campaign for Navy? Perhaps. Chances are, Dobbs will need another 1,000-yard rushing/1,000-yard passing season to pull that off. If he does, he'd join this list of players with two or more seasons in the 1,000-1,000 Club:
Beau Morgan, Air Force 1995-06
Joshua Cribbs, Kent State 2001-02
Brad Smith, Missouri, 2002-03, 2005
Vince Young, Texas, 2004-05
Patrick White, West Virginia, 2006-07
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, 2008-09
There is a lot to like about the Wildcats' offense.
Most of all, they had one of the nation's most efficient pass protection schemes and return all but one starter from the entire unit:
FEWEST SACKS ALLOWED, 2009
Adjusting for passing frequency, Arizona wound up third in what could be described as pass protection efficiency. Not bad.
Now, if only the Wildcats' defense can hold up its end of the deal. Arizona has little coming back on that side of the ball, and it would come as no shock if the Wildcats wind up matching last year's total of being involved in four conference games in which both teams posted at least 30 points.
The offense will be fine. If the defense is, too, this is a stealthy Rose Bowl candidate.